Feed Your Soul!

I’m finally done with another semester of being a nutrition student, yay! This semester was probably my toughest one yet because of the amount of courses I decided to take, along with yoga teacher training, balancing a job, and trying to fit in time for my own yoga practice. One thing that definitely helped me this semester was fitting in time to de-stress. Yoga helped, as did some other activities, such as baking, spending time outdoors, and curling up with a good book. If you find yourself overwhelmed, I recommend doing some activities that take your mind off whatever is stressing you out. During my finals week, I realized how important it is to do things that feed your soul instead of focusing either exclusively on work/obligations or doing things that provide a sense of fleeting fun.

Although technically the following recipe isn’t a “baked good”, it still kept me occupied in the kitchen and turned out to be a really healthy, filling little treat. Coming up with cheaper alternatives to my favorite packaged snack foods is now an official hobby, so I present to you, my raw balls. Okay, get your mind out of the gutter. These delicious balls are made of (mostly) all raw ingredients and are chock full of healthy, plant-based fats and fiber. They also make a great present if you haven’t bought your holiday gifts yet.

 

Raw Vegan Ballsphoto-48

Chocolate Chip Variation

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups medjool dates (make sure you take the pit out of them!)
  • 3/4 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (Trader Joe’s sells a vegan version)

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine pitted dates, nuts, and vanilla extract. Transfer to a food processor and process/pulse for a minute or two. The mixture should be easily moldable with your hands. If the mixture is too sticky, add a few more nuts by the tablespoon, and continue to use the food processor. If the mixture has too many nuts and won’t mold together with your hands, try adding a few more pitted dates. Transfer back into the large bowl and add chocolate chips. Mold into ball shapes with your hands and refrigerate. Enjoy!

Dark Chocolate Cherry Variation

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups pitted medjool dates
  • 3/4 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of cocoa powder

Directions:

Combine pitted dates, nuts, dried cherries, and cocoa powder together and transfer to a food processor. Process until blended for about a minute of two. If the consistency is too dry and the mixture won’t mold with your hands, try adding a few more dates. If it’s too sticky, add a few more nuts by the tablespoon. Transfer to a bowl and then using your hands, mold the mixture into ball shapes and refrigerate. Enjoy!

-Jess

Banana Trail Mix Granola Bars

I love granola bars (and granola not in bar-form), but store-bought granola bars can be high in sugar and not at all healthy. One solution to avoiding the sugar high and subsequent crash is to avoid packaged snacks and instead make your own. Granola bars are surprisingly easy to make and because you’re in control, you can greatly reduce the amount of sugar and fat in the recipe. The following recipe is deliciously chewy, moist (when straight out of the oven) and guaranteed to be healthier than most granola bars. I can’t take full credit for the idea of this recipe, because it came from an assortment of pinterest re-pins and instagram likes (a nutrition student needs her distractions too!). photo 1-18

Ingredients (makes 12-16 bars/squares):

  • 3 and 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup or thick liquid sweetener
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1 cup trail mix
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 mashed bananas
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  • In a large bowl, combine oats, trail mix, cinnamon,and nutmeg
  • In a separate bowl, mash bananas, and then add apple sauce, honey, and vanilla extract
  •  Mix wet ingredients into the oats, trail mix and spices until a thick mixture results
  • Grease a 9″x 9″ square pan or rectangular pan of your choice
  • Using a spoon, spread the mixture on the pan creating a 1-1.5″ thick layer of granola
  • Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30-35 minutes
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool
  • Cut into squares/bars and enjoy!

photo 2-17-Jess

Mad About Muffins

Greetings readers! I’ve been busy with school, yoga teacher training, and a bunch of other stuff (like jewelry making…but I’ll discuss that a little later) hence why I haven’t posted much lately. One might think that being busy means that there’s no time to create healthy, delicious recipes, but cooking and baking is a priority for me. Not only because making healthy food is a necessity, but also because I’m a firm believer in doing activities that bring me joy, so even when I’m busy I try to make some time to play around in the kitchen. Tonight I made two really healthy muffin recipes that I’m sharing here. Both recipes are vegan, oil-free, and can be made gluten-free.

Blueberry Oat Muffinsphoto 1.PNG-2

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat, spelt, or brown rice flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1 cup apple sauce
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (or more. Aim for thinner than cookie batter but thicker than pancake batter)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup oats
  • 1 cup blueberries

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Measure dry ingredients and add together in a large bowl
  • Measure and mix in wet ingredients
  • Line a muffin tin with paper muffin cups, or use spray oil to prevent sticking of batter
  • Using a spoon, scoop batter into each cup and bake for 20-25 minutes
  • Remove from oven, let cool, and enjoy!

Banana Walnut Muffins

Indulging in a banana walnut muffin as I type this post!

Indulging in a banana walnut muffin as I type this post!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat, spelt, or gluten-free flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1 cup apple sauce
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (or more, depending on the consistency. Aim for thinner than cookie batter but thicker than pancake batter)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 bananas, chopped up or pureed
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Measure dry ingredients and add to a large bowl
  • Measure wet ingredients (I included bananas and walnuts in here, even though technically they’re “dry”. What can I say, I live my life by my own rules 😉 )
  • Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients in a bowl
  • Line a muffin tin or use muffin cups and transfer muffin batter to the tin/cups using a spoon
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes
  • Remove from oven, allow to cool, and enjoy!

As I mentioned above, I’ve been making a lot of beaded jewelry as of late (I find doing crafts to be a great way to procrastinate and a pretty decent stress-reliever!), so if you love both delicious food pictures and are interested in buying some of my crafty creations, follow me on instagram @vitaminvalentine

Falling for a Fall Recipe

I think fall is officially my favorite season in terms of seasonal produce. If you’ve read previous posts, you know that I love pumpkin. I also love kale, spaghetti squash, and tofu seems to be my go-to source of protein as of late. So what better way to enjoy my favorites than combine them in an incredibly nutritious, seasonal recipe. The following recipe is high in protein, healthy fats, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and doesn’t take too long to cook either. If you don’t have fresh pumpkin, feel free to use canned (just make sure you’re using pure pumpkin puree).

Spaghetti Squash with Pumpkin-Crusted Tofu and Kale (serves 2-3)photo-47

Ingredients:

  • 1 large spaghetti squash (if you’re unfamiliar with what it looks like, it’s yellow and kind of football-shaped)
  • 3 cups kale
  • 6 oz. firm tofu
  • 1/2 cup onions
  • 1 cup pumpkin (softened and then pureed using a food processor/blender. Alternatively, use canned pumpkin. Honestly, I used canned pumpkin and it worked well)
  • juice of one lemon
  • juice of one orange
  • 1 tsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons tamari or regular soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • fresh or dried ginger (about 1-2 tsp.)

Directions:

  • Cut the spaghetti squash in half (the long way). Take a sharp fork or piercing device and poke holes to aerate the squash during cooking.
  • Place the squash halves (soft side facing up) in a microwave safe dish and add  1 cup of water, dividing half of the water beneath the squash and the remaining water poured into the exposed soft sides of the squash. Cover with either a piece of paper towel or press and seal wrap.
  • Heat in the microwave for 12 minutes
  • As the spaghetti squash is cooking, cut, drain, and dry tofu into smaller pieces (the size of the tofu depends on your preference)
  • Combine measured, soft pumpkin with tamari/soy sauce, olive oil, lemon and orange juices, vinegar, and ginger
  • Spread the pumpkin mixture over the tofu so that each piece if saturated in the mixture. You can also marinate the tofu in this mixture overnight for more flavor
  • As you let the tofu sit in the pumpkin mixture for a few minutes, cut the kale and onions into smaller pieces
  • In a large saucepan, spray the bottom with a little spray oil or lightly oil the pan and then add the tofu/pumpkin mixture, kale, and onions. Cook on a low-medium heat setting, just so the tofu is lightly browned and the kale and onions have softened
  • After the squash has finished cooking, remove from the microwave and allow to cool. *Important to keep in mind: the squash is going to be extra hot, especially as you remove the squash “innards” (my weird little name for the spaghetti-like insides). Take this time to taste the tofu-pumpkin/kale combo and feel free to adjust any spices, oils, or accompaniments that you feel would complement the dish.
  • After the squash has cooled a bit, take a fork and remove seeds. The rest of the spaghetti-like strands should be easy to remove. Place on a plate and top with the pumpkin-tofu, kale, and onions.
  • Serve immediately and enjoy!

 

-Jess

 

 

Roasted Veggie One-Layer Lasagna

For the past few weeks (up until now), I haven’t been inspired to cook anything exciting but I am excited about something…my classes for fall semester start next week! I’m excited because it means I’m one step closer to my master’s and the beginning of my career. On a food-note-I wanted to make a dish for the next few days so that when I come home, I can just heat this up for an easy lunch or dinner (or healthy midnight snack). The following recipe is chock full of nutrients in the form of root veggies and whole grains. You can also roast some green veggies, like kale or brussels sprouts and add them to this recipe (which I didn’t do, but just thought would taste amazing). If you’re not a vegan, feel free to add some cheese, but this version I made is vegan.

photo 3-11Ingredients (serves 3)

  • 6 sheets/pieces of whole grain lasagna
  • 2 large beets, chopped into cubes in a size to your liking
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 1.5 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil or olive oil (but not extra virgin olive oil, because this is going in the oven)
  • 1 additional carrot to be grated
  • pepper, to taste
  • a sprinkle of garlic powder

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit
  • Place chopped veggies, pepper, and 1 tbsp. oil in an oven safe dish and mix so that the oil covers the veggies
  • Roast veggies at 400 degrees for 30 minutes
  • While the veggies are roasted, boil a large pot of water
  • When the water comes to a boil, place sheets of lasagna in water. Don’t break them to allow them to be fully submerged, just wait until half of them become pliable enough to fit entirely in the water.
  • After 8-12 minutes, the pasta should be ready.
  • Remove from stove and drain. Then, pat dry or lay them across a surface to dry
  • Remove the roasted veggies from the oven after 30 minutes
  • Grease another oven-safe dish and then lay three of the lasagna sheets down on the dish
  • Add a layer of tomato sauce to the lasagna sheets
  • Add most of the roasted veggies and sprinkle garlic powder, add 1 tbsp. oil, and another layer of tomato sauce if desired
  • Add the second layer of lasagna sheets (you should have three remaining) on top of the roasted veggies/tomato sauce mixture
  • Add one more layer of tomato sauce on top, and (optional) a few more roasted veggies on top of the sauce
  • Grate a carrot using a cheese grater and add on top (like you would with cheese)
  • Stick in the oven at 400 degrees for 6-8 minutes
  • Remove from oven, allow to cool, and serve (or save for later)
  • Enjoy!

-Jess

An Ode to Oats

A while ago, I wrote a post about several different ways to prepare oats. Tonight, I was hungry, but didn’t really feel like cooking an elaborate meal. I also had a bunch of veggies that I wanted to use, so I decided to make a savory oat recipe that combines veggies, whole grains, and a good helping of plant-based protein and healthy fats. Next time you’re craving something filling yet quick, try this recipe. Oats are a great grain to use because they’re rich in fiber and leave you feeling full for quite a while. They’re also so easy to make and mild in flavor on their own, so think beyond breakfast when it comes to oats.

This dish might not win any awards for being visually pleasing, but it is sure to leave your belly satisfied!

This dish might not win any awards for being visually pleasing, but it is sure to leave your belly satisfied!

Ingredients (serves 1 hungry person, or 2 people):

  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats (gluten-free oats are also an option, if you’re following a gluten-free diet)
  • 1/2 cup black beans (drained of excess water and salt)
  • 1/4 c. chopped onion
  • 1 cup diced mushrooms, bell peppers, or whatever veggies you have available
  • 1 cup spinach, or other leafy green
  • guacamole (or avocado slices)
  • red pepper hummus (optional), you can also use salsa if available
  • non-stick spray or 1-2 tsp. olive oil

Directions:

  • Spray a pan with nonstick spray oil (or pour some olive oil on a pan), chop up veggies, and allow to cook on medium heat
  • Measure oats and place in a microwave-safe bowl. Add the suggested amount of water listed on the box. Heat for about 3 minutes in the microwave (but watch the bowl, because sometimes oats like to overflow and then you’ll be spending some time cleaning your microwave. Not fun!)
  • When the veggies have lightly browned, add 1/2 cup black beans to heat them up (canned beans don’t really need to be cooked) for a few minutes
  • Remove the pan of veggies and beans from the stove
  • Remove the oats from the microwave and combine the two
  • Add hummus, guacamole, salsa, or whatever you think would complement this dish well. Get creative and enjoy!

-Jess

Healthy Gluten-Free, Vegan Microwave Brownies

photo-5

Microwave brownies are an easy way to treat yourself and a great way to exercise portion control. I know when I make brownies in the oven, I’m tempted to eat more than I even want just because I have a surplus of freshly baked goods. If you’re like me, having a single-serving of dessert is an easy remedy for this problem. Not only will the following recipe satisfy your chocolate craving, it also provides some healthy nutrition. Using almond meal is a great alternative to wheat flour or rice flour, the latter tends to be low in fiber and high in carbohydrates. Almond meal is a great source of vitamin E and contains fiber and healthy fats. Using 100% cocoa powder along with dark chocolate chips is a delicious way get some flavonoids that may help you decrease cholesterol and blood pressure over time. Instead of using sugar or honey, using whole dates (just remember to remove the pit before grinding) provides a little fiber (which will slow down digestion and won’t lead to high and then low blood sugar). I chose not to use eggs in this recipe because it tasted fine without them, but if you’re not a vegan and you want a thicker, more solid/cake-like brownie, feel free to add an egg white and microwave as described below.

Here’s my latest healthy, gluten-free, vegan microwave brownie recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/4-1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce (you want enough apple sauce to allow the almond meal to not be in flour-y chunks)
  • 1 tbsp. 100% cocoa powder, unsweetened
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 medjool dates, remove pit (use a food processor + 2 tbsp. of water to turn this into a very thick liquid, or grind with a hand tool– you just want a paste-like consistency)
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp. chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp. almond butter

Directions:

  • Mix almond meal, cocoa powder, applesauce, vanilla extract, and ground dates together in a microwave safe bowl
  • Microwave for 2 minutes and check to see if the mixture has thickened or stiffened. This recipe won’t get too stiff, but it’s more of a soft-fudgy consistency.
  • If not yet thick and if the mixture is still liquid-y, microwave for 45 second increments until it has thickened
  • Wait for the mixture to cool for a few minutes (2-5 minutes)
  • Top with chocolate chips, almond butter and sprinkle with cinnamon

photo-6

Enjoy!

-Jess

A Simple Way of Eating

A burrito I made filled with brown rice, lentils, tofu, spicy avocado hummus, and hot sauce. Delicious but my stomach was less appreciative.

A burrito I made filled with brown rice, lentils, tofu, spicy avocado hummus, and hot sauce. Delicious but my stomach was less appreciative.

Lately I’ve been cooking and creating so many new dishes and even though I’m having a ton of fun in the kitchen, my stomach is starting to complain (I tend to use a lot of spices while cooking and I eat a lot of difficult-to-digest beans and grains). I also find that trying to constantly come up with new meals can take a toll, especially when my main focus should be on school (I’m currently pursuing two degrees, both in nutrition!). So, I’ve decided to simplify my diet and eat pretty basic, nutrient-packed meals for the time being. Besides my stomach pains and limited time and energy due to my classes, another reason why I’ve decided to get back to basics when it comes to eating is an inner feeling that my body just craves real simple food right now, instead of the complicated yet tasty meals I’ve been making. As I’ve mentioned many times throughout my blog, I’m a big fan of (trying) to listen to one’s body. Not only am I an advocate of intuitive eating, I’m also on my own journey to eat more intuitively and be less dependent on external factors (like counting calories and eating at certain pre-determined times during the day).

A blood orange up close and personal!

Luckily, the food stores I shop at have a great variety of fresh produce. Here’s a blood orange, up-close and personal.

I don’t really have a plan of what I’m going to eat, because that would be counter-productive to the goals of intuitive eating. However, I know that for the past few weeks I’ve been eating a ton of oatmeal (see my previous post—all those photos are from my own breakfasts!), tofu, wraps and sandwiches with spicy hummus galore, and a lot of other bean and veggie dishes. Obviously, I eat quite healthy, but my stomachaches indicate I should switch up my diet. I keep craving really simple meals (like fruit, salads, soup, nuts) so I’ve purposely stocked my pantry and fridge with the above. I also had a wild thought of trying to wean myself off of coffee (I’m heavily dependent on the magical bean elixir) but I will get back to you on that in the A.M. hours! (Update: Still drinking coffee, and even wrote a new blog post on coffee!)

This was a meal (I ate this for lunch) composed of dark purple grapes, a banana, strawberries, and turkish figs. I craved fruit, I ate fruit, and got my fair share of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients!

This was a meal (I ate this for lunch) composed of dark purple grapes, a banana, strawberries, and turkish apricots. I craved fruit, I ate fruit, and got my fair share of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients!

Salads are never boring with the right dressing. Here, I used cilantro dressing. Yum!

Salads are never boring with the right dressing. Here, I used cilantro dressing. Yum!

How do you know when it’s time to make a change in your diet? Is your weight the first thing you check, or are you more aware of your energy levels, digestion, and overall wellbeing? Feel free to share your input!

-Jess

Oat-rageous Oatmeal Ideas

Left: Oats with apples and almond butter. Right: Oats with Heritage Flakes (dry cereal) and a peach

Left: Oats with apples and almond butter. Right: Oats with Heritage Flakes (dry cereal) and a peach

Have you grown tired of eating your oatmeal with brown sugar? Well, prepare to be amazed with some delicious oatmeal ideas.

Before I get to that, let’s discuss how healthy oats actually are! Oatmeal has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol (the bad kind), decrease overall inflammation in the body, decrease blood pressure, and keep you full for a long time. When choosing an oatmeal variety, stick to the old-fashioned kind and not the instant one-minute kind and try to stay away from any with added sugars or fake dried fruit in the ingredients.

Here are some delicious, nutritious oatmeal ideas for your eating pleasure:

  • Cook oatmeal according to the directions on the box. Then chop an apple and add to the bowl. Top with 1-2 tbsp. of peanut butter and sprinkle with cinnamon. You can also slice a banana in addition or in place of an apple.

    mmm Oatmeal, Apples, & Peanut butter!

    mmm Oatmeal, Apples, & Peanut butter!

  • Prepare the oats, and blend berries in a blender. Mix the berries in with the oats and not only do you get a huge amount of nutrients in that bowl, you also get a beautifully colored masterpiece. Top with other fruit, such as an orange and coconut flakes for a nice finish. To add some healthy fats, you can also add almond butter or mixed nuts.photo-13
  • Cook oats, and add in canned pumpkin and top with raisins and cinnamon.
  • Use oats in a savory dish by replacing them in any recipe that calls for rice, quinoa, barley, or any other grain. Oats have a mild flavor, and when seasoned correctly can be done right in savory dishes.
  • Add a fiber-full  dry cereal to your oats, if you want some extra fiber!
  • Add oats to your favorite cookie or muffin recipe for some fiber. You may have to increase the amount of oil or liquid ingredients, but unlike flour, oats will not immediately soak up the liquid ingredients so play around with the recipe you’re using.

    Oats in a muffin makes this a healthy fibrous breakfast

    Oats in a muffin makes this a healthy fibrous breakfast

  • Eat oats for dessert! Cook oats, and then add 1 tbsp. of cocoa powder (I like 100% cacao, unsweetened). Add a tbsp. of brown sugar, some cinnamon, almond or peanut butter, and your favorite fruit.photo 5

 

Those are my favorite ways to use oats. What are some of your favorites? Feel free to post a comment if you’d like to share, and don’t forget to visit and like my new Facebook page for Vitamin Valentine for additional daily nutrition, motivation, and health news and updates.

 

-Jess

How To Keep Warm in This Never-Ending Winter: Hot & Spicy Tofu Curry

I live in the northeast and I can’t wait for this winter to be over. Luckily, the official start of spring is now less than a month away. To keep you warm for the remainder of the winter, I’ve made a delicious curry recipe and would love to share. Did you know that the spices in curry dishes have amazing health properties? Indeed, studies have shown that a compound found in curry has anti-cancer benefits, and Turmeric (another spice involved in curry dishes) may lower blood sugar and increase insulin sensitivity overtime. Besides the health properties, curry is so delicious and versatile. Adding heat to a meal also raises your metabolism, albeit only temporarily by 8%.

Spicy Coconut Curry Tofu with Sriracha-Hummus Quinoa on the Side

photo-12

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. can of coconut milk (not coconut water, but the actual high-fat coconut milk)
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • small amount of oil for the pan
  • cilantro
  • bay leaf
  • 1.5 tablespoons curry powder
  • red thai curry paste
  • juice of one lime
  • 1-3+ tsp. chili powder (depends on how spicy you like it)
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 12 oz. firm tofu
  • 2/3 cup chickpeas (canned saves time)
  • 1/2 cup frozen or fresh peas
  • 1/2 cup dry quinoa +2 cups water
  • hummus
  • sriracha or hot sauce

Directions:

  • Dice the onions and garlic, oil the pan, and sauté until just about lightly browned.
  • Add the tofu (drain and press the tofu to get rid of excess water prior to cooking) and cook on medium heat until the tofu is lightly browned.
  • Add the coconut milk and red thai curry paste, curry powder, bay leaf, chili powder, cilantro ginger, and lime juice.
  • Add the peas
  • Simmer on low-medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the drained, already cooked chickpeas towards the end of cooking.
  • Quinoa takes about 10 minutes to cook. Add quinoa to a pan and then add water after a minute of heating the dry quinoa. Stir and if the quinoa is undercooked but soaking up water, lower the heat and add more liquid incrementally.
  • Remove the bay leaves (or leaf), serve the curry in a bowl with quinoa on the side. To the quinoa, add hummus (garlic or plain flavored works best) on top and finish with sriracha or hot sauce.
  • Enjoy!

-Jess